Introduction to DSLR Cameras

Step 1: Research

DSLR stands for digital single lens reflex. DSLR cameras use a mirror to reflect the image from the lens to the viewfinder, behind the mirror is a sensor. The sensor is what takes that light and interprets it as a electronic signal that shows up on your camera's screen. It's more complicated than that, but I don't want to hurt your brain before we even get this lesson started!

The larger the sensor, the better your camera will be in low light, and the larger your field of view will be. Large sensor, or full-frame cameras, are more expensive than cameras with cropped sensors.

Every DSLR camera has pros and cons. To find the right camera for you, you’ll need to research all the features that come with the camera and look around online or on Vimeo for example footage. Vimeo has entire Groups dedicated to many different types of cameras like the 5D Mark II, EOS 7D, Nikon D90 and a catch-all DSLR Cinema Group.

Advantages of shooting video with a DSLR camera.

  • High Quality -- Nearly every DSLR camera that shoots video can shoot in 1080p, which is very high quality HD.

  • Film Look -- DSLR cameras can imitate the look of film very well. This means your videos will look like what you see when you go to the movies!

  • Also a Stills Camera -- Remember, your DSLR is primarily a stills camera, which means you can easy go back and forth between video and photo mode.

When it comes to deciding which camera is the best for you, keep in mind that technology is always advancing, so new cameras will have new features all the time, therefore there will never be a “perfect” camera. In the end, what you can afford is the most important factor.

EFor extra credit: Phil reviews lots of DSLR cameras on his personal site. See what he has to say about a camera you're interested in at

Okay, now that we've reviewed the basics of DSLR cameras, check out the other lessons and tutorials in our DSLR category.

Check out the other episodes in this series:

Ready for a challenge?

So do you feel confident enough to go out and shoot something? Philip has a great starting challenge for you called "An Object." Find an object and film it so that it's interesting! Use all the techniques you learned, keeping in mind your white balance, ISO settings, and frame rate. Keep your video under two minutes and really push your boundaries with framing and DOF. Watch Phil's example video here.

Accept this challenge



Johan Engström

Johan Engström

must say that not being able to use the viewfinder for video is a feature that i miss a lot. My pentax even has a 200-400ms delay on the "Live View" screen so it's a really hard task to get good video with it. So that's a plus for the GH2



Thank you for the great video, I have. 7d so it was awesome you went over the information. My videos look better already I was amazed!



I really love these videos, particularly the way Andrea waves her hand! Thanks Nick (

Anjaana Arzoo

Anjaana Arzoo

really helpful message for all dslr user.......


Shiply PRO

Still very valid advice 4 years later. The 5D Mark II is still amazing for DSLR photography



so I am a consumer of video's my company wants to challenge someone to make a 2 min film about honey. it is vey intereating object to photograph. the winner can receive cash if it is allowed plus more cash for taking stills of our product. unless they really like honey.

im going to look more on how to do this officially if anyone knows please do tell.

I use a Nikon D3000 and a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera. I also use my iphone 5S (which is about to be updated in the Fall to IOS8). I live in England and used to be in the Royal Photographic Society - so I know which end you point the camera at in order to take a photo :) . I'm used to taking photos black and White and Colour and have developed films and papers to produce photos whether from negatives or positives. I'm not too sure about 'Movie' usage tho I understand the frame rates. Its just another piece of info to fit into the jig-saw that makes up Photography using the moving picture or the 'still' shot. Hugo

Oh by the way, I'm seventy-two which is why I know all of that info above - I've been taking photos all of my life. My first real camera for me was the Voigtlander. hugo

Micah Foster

Micah Foster

I'm Curious, What does Philip bloom think about the new GH4 from Panasonic? 4K recording!! :-) Thank you for a great series, it was very helpful.

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Lesson Summary

New to shooting with a DSLR? Maybe you're thinking about getting one? We'll teach you the differences between DSLR cameras and help you decide which one's best for you!

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